Theodore Beza invited to Nérac. Jeanne d'Albret.
On the twentieth of July, at the urgent request of the King and Queen of
Navarre, the "Venerable Company of the Pastors of Geneva" had sent the
eloquent Theodore Beza to Gascony "to instruct" the royal family in the
word of God.2 In the dress of a nobleman he had traversed France and
reached Nérac in safety. Here he at once exercised a powerful influence
upon the king. The fickle mind of Antoine was susceptible of no deep
impressions; but it was very easily affected for the time. His queen,
Jeanne d'Albret, was his very opposite in mental and moral constitution.
Whereas the very first blast threw him into a fervor of enthusiastic
devotion to the purer faith, the heart of the queen--a woman not made to
be led, but to lead--yielded slowly to the melting influences of the
Gospel. But it never lost its
1 Remonstrances, plaintes, et doléançes de l'estat ecclés.,
MSS. Arch. du départ, de la Vienne, Hist. des Protestants et des églises
réf. du Poitou, par A. Lièvre (Poitiers, 1856), i. 84, 85.
2 Geneva MS., apud Baum, Theodor Beza, ii. 110.
glow. Jeanne came very reluctantly to the determination to cast
in her lot with the Reformation. She hesitated to risk the loss
of her possessions, and regretted to abandon the attractions
of the world. When, however, the decision was once made, the
question was never reopened for fresh deliberation.1
Antoine's short-lived zeal. New pressure upon Navarre and Condé.
At this time, Antoine, we are told, renounced the mass, and was supposed
to think, as he certainly spoke, of nothing but the means of advancing
the cause in which he had embarked. Beza preached before him in one of
the churches, and all signs pointed to the rapid establishment of the
Reformation on a firm basis. The eloquent orator added his persuasion to
the entreaties of the representatives of the Protestant churches of
France and the exhortations of Constable Montmorency. All had urged
Antoine to make his appearance at Fontainebleau with a powerful escort.
We have seen the ill-success with which the joint effort was attended.
The spies whom the Guises kept in pay around the King of Navarre, in the
persons of his most intimate advisers, deterred him from a movement
which they portrayed as fraught with peril. A few days after the
conclusion of the assembly came the king's summons. To this Antoine at
first replied that, if the accusers of his brother, of whose innocence
he was fully persuaded, would declare themselves, and if he were assured
that impartial justice would be shown, he would come to the court in
company with few attendants. Condé wrote, at the same time, and
expressed perfect confidence in his ability to disprove all the
allegations against him, provided a safe access to the court was
afforded him. On this point the suspicions of the Bourbon princes were
soon set at rest by new letters from the king and his mother, assuring
them that they would find not only security, but an opportunity to
refute charges which Francis and Catharine professed themselves
unwilling to credit.2 To these reassuring words were
1 See the interesting passage in the Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 204.
2 "As touching the occurrents of this Court, it may please your Majesty to be advertised,
that the King of Navarre being on his way to this Court, hath had letters, as I am informed,
written unto him, of great good opinion conceived of him by this King, with all other kind of
courtesies, to cause him to repair thither." Despatch of Sir Nicholas
Throkmorton, Orleans, Nov. 17, 1560, Hardwick, State Papers, i. 138.
joined the solicitations of their own brother, the shallow Cardinal of
Bourbon,1 and of the Cardinal of Armagnac. The princes, already
discouraged by tidings of the failure of the projects of Montbrun,
Mouvans and Maligny in the east, lent too ready an ear to these
suggestions. The first open manifestation of weakness was when the King
and Queen of Navarre, with their son, young Prince Henry of Béarn,
consented to hear mass in the presence of many of their courtiers. But
the extent of Antoine's concessions was, for a time, kept concealed from
his followers. At the very moment when Beza was diligently visiting the
well affected nobles, and urging them to lend prompt assistance, the
Guises were exulting, with joy mingled with fear, over the promise given
by Antoine to the Count of Crussol, that he would come, with an
insignificant escort to Orleans, whither Francis had advanced. The
tidings appeared too good to be true.2 For, although the French king
had received assurances of assistance from Philip--who was reported by
the French envoy at Toledo to be favorable to the exercise of any
severity against the Bourbon princes,3 so great
1 The portrait of this personage is painted in no
flattering colors by Calvin in two letters, to Sulcer, Oct. 1, 1560
("whose mind is more lumpish than a log, unless when it is a little
quickened by wine"), and to Bullinger, of the same date ("one whom you
might easily mistake for a cask or a flagon, so little has he the shape
of a human being"). Bonnet, Eng. tr., iv. 131-135.
2 The despatches that passed between the court and the
French ambassador in Spain reveal the general alarm. Oct. 4th, Cardinal
Lorraine expects Navarre and Condé within the first half of the month,
"dont je suis fort ayse." Oct. 5th, Francis writes that, within two
days, he has heard that they intend carrying out their enterprise. Oct.
9th, the secretary of state complains of "fresh alarm daily." Négoc.
sous François II., 604-607, 610, 650. Others were, in the end, as much
astounded as the Guises at Navarre's pacific attitude. Throkmorton,
writing to the privy council that this king was looked for shortly at
Orleans, adds that all bruits of trouble by him were clean appeased,
which caused great marvel. Despatch to privy council, Paris, Oct. 24,
1560, State Paper Office.
3 Letter of Bishop of Limoges to the Cardinal of Lorraine,
Sept. 26, 1560, apud Négotiations sous François II., 562: "Je vous
supplie de croire que le roy et mes seigneurs de son conseil [i. e.,
Francis and the Guises] ne feront rien pour extirper un tel mal qui ne
soit icy [in Spain] bien pris et receu à l'endroict de qui que ce
soit [sc. Navarre and Condé]: tant ceux-cy craignent qu'il y ait
changement en notre religion et estat." Cf. also pp. 551, 552.
was his personal enmity toward them--yet the same ambassador had not failed to
inform Charles that the troops ostensibly prepared for a French campaign were
really intended for Italy and to make good the Spanish monarch's losses
in Africa. On the other hand, unless Philip could send six hundred
thousand or seven hundred thousand crowns to Flanders to pay arrearages
and debts, he could not move a soldier across the lines from that
The Huguenot gentry offer him aid. He dismisses his escort.
The strictest orders had been given to the commandants of important
points, such as Bordeaux and Poitiers, through which Antoine might
intend passing, to guard them against him, in case of his showing any
inclination to come otherwise than peaceably.2 These precautions,
however, proved unnecessary. Antoine intended to abide by his
engagement. When by slow stages he had at length reached Limoges, he
found a number of friendly noblemen awaiting him. In a few days more
seven or eight hundred gentlemen had come in, well equipped and armed.
They begged him at once to declare for the liberation of France,
according to his previous promises. The nobility, they said, were only
waiting for the word of command. Meanwhile Gascony, Poitou, and the
coasts offered six or seven thousand foot soldiers, already enrolled
under captains, and prepared to defend him against present attack.
Provence and Languedoc would march to his assistance with three or four
thousand horse and foot. Normandy would raise as many more. He would at
once become so formidable that, without a blow, he could assume the
guardianship of the king. Bourges and Orleans would fall into his hands,
and the States General be held free of constraint. The very forces of
the enemy would desert the sinking cause of the hated Guises. As for the
necessary funds, with the best filled purses in France at his command,
he could scarcely feel any lack. The suggestions of the Huguenot lords,
backed by the entreaties of Beza, were,
1 Négociations sous François II., 553, 554.
2 Instructions of the king to M. de La Burie, commanding in
Guyenne, Sept., 1560, apud Négociations sous François II., 578-580;
also Ib., 644.
however, overborne by the secret insinuations of his treacherous counsellors.
At Verteuil--a few leagues beyond--Navarre clearly announced his intentions,
and dismissed his numerous friends with hearty thanks for their kind attentions.
He would ask the king's pardon for those who had accompanied him thus far
in arms. "Pardon!" replied one of the gentlemen, "think only of very
humbly asking it for yourself, who are going to give yourself up as a
prisoner with the halter around your neck. So far as I can see, you have
more need of it than we have, who have determined not to sell our lives
at so cheap a rate, but to die fighting rather than submit to the mercy
of those detested enemies of the king. And since we are miserably
forsaken by our leaders, we hope that God will raise up others to free
us from the oppression of these tyrants."1 This retort proving
futile, as did also the warning of the Princess of Condé, who wrote and
sent a messenger to her husband to escape from the toils of his enemies
while it was still possible, the Huguenot gentry retired in disgust; and
Beza seized the first opportunity (on the seventeenth of October) to
steal away from the King of Navarre, and undertake his perilous return
to Geneva, which he succeeded in reaching after a series of hair-breadth
Infatuation of the Bourbons.
The King of Navarre had disregarded the counsels of Calvin and other
prudent advisers, who believed that, if he presented himself with a
powerful escort at the gates of Orleans, the Guises would yield without
a blow.3 Antoine felt confident that his enemies would never venture
to lay hands on a prince of the royal blood. His blind infatuation
seemed to infect Condé also. Their presumption was somewhat shaken when
the royal governor of Poitiers forbade
1 La Planche, 377.
2 La Planche, 375; Baum, Theodor Beza, ii. 120-123, whose
account of this episode in the reformer's life is well written and
interesting. For the general facts above stated the best authority is,
as usual, La Planche, 373-377; see also La Place, 71; De Thou, ii. 807,
827; Hist. ecclés., i. 205; Castelnau, l. ii., c. 9; Davila, 34, 35;
Calvin's Letters (Bonnet), iv., pp. 132, 137, 143, 147-151.
3 Calvin to Bullinger, Dec. 4th, and to Sulcer, Dec. 11,
1560 (Bonnet, iv. 149 and 151).
their entrance into that city. But the depth of the ruin into which they had
plunged was more clearly revealed to their eyes as they began to approach
Orleans. Friendly voices whispered the existence of a plan for their
destruction; friendly hands offered to effect their escape to Angers, and thence
into Normandy.1 But the die was cast. Hostile troops enveloped them, and
they resolved to continue their journey.
They reach Orleans. Condé arrested.
Navarre had figured upon the journey much as a provost-marshal leading
his brother to prison.2 Now the imaginary resemblance was turned
into a sad reality. On Thursday, the thirty-first of October, the
Bourbons reached Orleans.3 Their reception soon convinced them that
they had placed their heads in the jaws of the lion. None of the
courtiers save the cardinal, their brother, and La Roche-sur-Yon, their
cousin, deigned to do them honor. That very day, after a few angry
accusations from Francis, and a courageous vindication of his conduct by
the chivalrous prince, Condé was arrested in the king's presence and by
his order.4 The King of Navarre also was, indeed, little better than
a prisoner, so closely did he find himself watched.5 In vain did
Navarre remonstrate and plead the royal promise of security, offering
himself to become a surety for his brother; the king denied redress.
Then it was that Condé turned to the Cardinal of Bourbon, one of the few
that had come to do him honor and said: "Sir, by your assurances you
have delivered up your own
1 La Planche, 377; Agrippa d'Aubigné, liv. ii., c. 19.
2 La Planche, ubi supra.
3 Sommaire récit de la calomnieuse accusation de M. le prince de Condé, in the
Recueil des choses mém. (1565), 722-754, and Mémoires de Condé, ii.
373-395--a contemporaneous account by one who speaks of himself as "ayant assisté
à la conduicte de la plus grand part de tout le négoce."
4 "Nevertheless, upon his coming, being accompanied with
his brethren, the Cardinal of Bourbon and Prince of Condé, after they
have [had] done their reverence to the king and queens, the Prince of
Condé was brought before the council, who committed him forthwith
prisoner to the guard of Messrs. de Bresy and Chauveney, two captains of
the guard, and their companies of two hundred archers." Despatch of Sir
Nicholas Throkmorton, ubi supra.
5 "The King of Navarre goeth at liberty, but as it were a
prisoner." Despatch of Sir Nich. Throkmorton, ubi supra. "Tanquam
captivus." Same to Lord Robert Dudley, same date, State Paper Office.
brother to death."1 Others shared in Condé's misfortune. Madame de Roye,
his mother-in-law and a sister of Admiral Coligny, was brought a prisoner to
St. Germain, and a careful search was made among her papers and elsewhere
for the purpose of obtaining proofs of Condé's guilt.2
Return of Renée of Ferrara.
It was at this inauspicious moment that a distinguished princess reached
Orleans, after an absence of thirty-two years from her native land, and
was received with marked honors by the king and all the court, who went
out to meet her and escort her to the city.3 This was the celebrated
Renée, younger daughter of Louis the Twelfth, and widow of Ercole, Duke
of Ferrara, now returning, after the death of her husband, to spend her
declining years at her retreat of Montargis on the Loing. The scene
which she beheld awakened in her breast regret and indignation which she
was not slow in expressing. To the Duke of Guise, who had married her
daughter, Anne d'Este, she administered a severe rebuke. "Had I been
present," she said, "I would have prevented this ill-advised step. It is
no trifling matter to treat a prince of the blood in such a manner. The
wound is one that will long bleed; for no man has ever yet attacked the
blood of France but he has had reason to regret it."4
Condé's courage. His wife repulsed.
The courage of the imprisoned prince rose with his misfortunes. The
house in which he was incarcerated was flanked by a tower whose
embrasures commanded the approach, the windows were newly barred, and
the door was half-walled
1 La Place, 73; La Planche, 380, 381; Castelnau, 1. ii., c. 10.
2 La Place, 74: La Planche and Castelnau, ubi supra;
Sommaire récit, ubi supra. "Madame de Roy (Roye), the Admiral of
France his sister ... is taken and constituted prisoner." Despatch of
Sir Nich. Throkmorton, Orleans, November 17, 1560, Hardwick, State Papers, i. 139.
3 "The Dutchess of Ferrara, mother to the Duke that now is,
according to that I wrote heretofore to your Majesty, is arrived at this
Court, the 7th of this present, and was received by the King of Navarre,
the French King's brethren, and all the great Princes of this Court." Ubi supra.
4 Brantôme, Femmes illustres, Renée de France; La Planche,
381; La Place, 74; "que si elle y eust esté, elle l'eust empesché, et
que ceste playe saigneroit long temps après, d'autant que jamais homme
ne s'estoit attaché au sang de France, qu'il ne s'en fust trouvé mal." De Thou, ii. 830.
up to preclude the possibility of escape.1 But Prince Louis
stoutly maintained that it was not he that was a captive, since,
though his body was confined, his spirit was free and his
conscience clean and guiltless; but rather they were prisoners,
who, with the freedom of their body, felt their conscience to be
enslaved and harassed by a ceaseless recollection of their crimes.2
His wife, the virtuous Éléonore de Roye, fruitlessly applied for
admission in order to minister to his wants. She was rudely repulsed by
the king, at whose feet she had thrown herself in a flood of tears, with
the bitter remark that her husband was his mortal enemy, who had
conspired not only to obtain his crown, but his life also, and that he
could do no less than avenge himself upon him.3 It was only by
special effort that the few who dared avow themselves friends of the
disgraced Bourbons, succeeded in obtaining for Condé legal counsel, and
that these were allowed to hold brief interviews with the prince in the
presence of two officers of the crown.4 No others were admitted,
save a pretended friend, to sound his disposition toward the Guises.
Comprehending the motive of his visit, Condé begged him to inform those
who had sent him, "that he had received so many outrages at their hands
that there remained no path of reconciliation, save at the point of the
sword; and that, although he seemed to be at their mercy, he still had
confidence that God would avenge the injury done by them to a prince who
had come at the command and relying on the word of his king, but had
been shamefully imprisoned at their suggestion, in order to make in him
a beginning of the destruction of the royal blood."5
Condé tried by a commission. He is found guilty and sentenced to
A commission, consisting of Chancellor L'Hospital, President De
Thou, Counsellors Faye and Viole, and a few others, was
1 "He remaineth close in a house, and no man permitted to
speak with him; and his process is in hand. And I hear he shall now be
committed to the castle of Loches, the strongest prison in all this
realm." Sir Nich. Throkmorton, November 17, 1560, ubi supra, i. 138.
2 La Place, 75, ubi supra; De Thou, ii. 832, 833 (liv.
26); Sommaire récit, ubi supra.
3 La Planche, 402.
4 Ib., 401; La Place, 75; Sommaire récit, ubi supra.
5 La Planche, 400; Castelnau, liv. ii., c. 10.
appointed, on the thirteenth of November, to conduct the trial. Condé refused
to plead before them, taking refuge in his privilege, as a prince, to be tried
only before the king and by his peers.1 His appeals, however, were
rejected by the privy council, and he was commanded, in the king's name,
to answer, under pain of being held a traitor. In view of the known
desire and intention of the king and his chief advisers, the trial was
likely to be expeditious and not over-scrupulous.2 The most innocent
expressions of disapproval of the violent executions at Amboise were
perverted into open approval of a plot against the king. The prosecution
sought to establish the heresy of the prince, in order to furnish some
ground for finding him guilty of treason against Divine as well as royal
authority. Nor was this difficult. A priest, in full officiating
vestments, was introduced, as by royal command, to say mass in Condé's
presence. But the young Bourbon drove him out with rough words,
declaring "that he had come to his Majesty with no intention of holding
any communion with the impieties and defilements of the Roman
Antichrist, but solely to relieve himself of the false accusations that
had been made against him."3 Before so partial a court the trial could have
but one issue. Condé was found guilty, and condemned to be beheaded
on a scaffold erected before the king's temporary residence, at the opening
1 Sommaire récit, ubi supra. "For, being a prince of the
blood, he said, his process was to be adjudged either by the Princes of
the blood or by the twelve Peers; and therefore willed the Chancellor
and the rest to trouble him no further." Throkmorton, Nov. 28, 1560,
Hardwick, State Papers, i. 151. Castelnau (liv. ii., c. 11) has, by a
number of precedents, proved the validity of this claim.
2 Mémoires de Condé, i. 619, containing the royal arrêt
of Nov. 20th, rejecting Condé's demand; Sommaire récit. The (subsequent)
First President of parliament, Christopher de Thou, was, after
Chancellor L'Hospital, the leading member of the commission. His son,
the historian, may be pardoned for dismissing the unpleasant subject
with careful avoidance of details. La Planche makes no mention of the
chancellor in connection with the case, but records Condé's indignant
remonstrance against so devoted a servant of the Guises as the first
president acting as judge.
3 La Planche, 399.
of the States General.1 The sentence was signed not
only by the judges to whom the investigation had been entrusted, but by
members of the privy council, by the members of the Order of St.
Michael, and by a large number of less important dignitaries, without
even a formal examination into the merits of the case--so anxious were
the Guises to involve as many influential persons as possible in the
same responsibility with themselves. Of the privy councillors, Du
Mortier and Chancellor de l'Hospital alone refused to append their
signatures without a longer term for reflection, and endeavored to ward
off the blow by procrastination.2